ARMS: HANDS-ON WITH NEW CHARACTERS AND MODES
We rolled with the punches and threw a few jabs of our own in Nintendo’s new fighting game for Switch.
After a few minutes of duking it out in a match of Arms, it’s easy to see that Nintendo’s new fighting game for Switch has more in common with Street Fighter than it does Punch-Out!!! The combat is built around stretchy limbs and a familiar trio of options, where you have to use punches, throws, and blocks to K.O. your opponent. This is a fighting game with a balletic rhythm and flow that feels unique. The near-finished version of Arms I saw felt like a tried-and-true fighting game that uses simple motion-based inputs to set up the same tense, electric all-or-nothing moments found in plenty of modern competitive games. But Arms also has a wacky spirit, and we got a glimpse of it in some of the game's off-beat modes (Editor's Note: Nintendo announced that Arms is getting a Testpunch beta period later this month, and it's getting free updates post launch).
Motion Controls That Work
Arms builds a fighting game around a simple-to-execute motion control scheme, but I quickly learned it wasn’t a reason for concern. Before you run off screaming about the unreliability of gyro-sensor-based controls let me explain how Arms leverages these controls in smart ways. General movement, punches, throws, and blocking are tied to the simple gestures that don’t require a lot of effort to pull off, but equally important features like jumping and dodging are mapped to the L and R buttons. This balanced setup helps Arms find an accessible middle ground where you can leap, dodge and weave past a foe's punches until you find the right opportunity to strike.
<font color="#333435"><span style="font-family: ars-maquette-web">https://youtu.be/hY2_Xu3f8Bc
Once I wrapped my brains around how the controls work, I never felt like they hindered my ability to throw a punch. This is not Wii Sports Boxing. In fact, carelessly throwing lots of punches more often than not leads to failing in Arms. It’s important to note though that I didn’t get to play using the buttons-based control scheme supported by Switch’s handheld mode. That means I can’t tell you how they compare, but I can tell you that what I played felt good. It doesn’t require a lot of motion to play and the controls were better than I expected.
Solid Combat Basics
Arms relies on a rigid combat triangle where punches beat throws, throws counter blocks, and blocks overpower punches, and it uses this familiar rock/paper/scissors formula to build a solid foundation. But that’s not all: Nintendo has packed multiple layers of data into this game’s metagame. Your gloves (conveniently also called Arms) have elemental properties that can be charged up. If you’re hit by a powered up Icy glove, for example, it will slow you down a little bit before it wears off. Coupling characters with specific arms gives you a bunch of options, from slow-moving Megaton punches to whip-like boomerangs. Once you mix in charged up punches, which you can charge up after a dodge or landing on after a jump, you can rack up even more damage. The core idea is to mix and match the different Arms and find a set that works with your playstyle.
Your character also has unique abilities to help set them apart from each other. You can have fun experimenting but, If you want to succeed, you really need to study up on what each fighter does well. Take the bouncy Spring Man. He’s a good all-around fighter to start, and his punches stay charged up once his health drops below 25 percent. But if you feel more comfortable firing off punches from the safety of the air, Ribbon Girl’s triple jump is what you need. And she can drop suddenly to throw off her opponent’s timing.
Nintendo unveiled four new fighters during our demo, and each one looked promising. We saw Twintelle, a masked femme fatale that fights using her hair and slow down time, and Kid Cobra, a slithery opponent that can use rapid dodges to maneuver around punches. Finally, there’s the duo called Byte & Barq, a blue and gold robocop that fights with a K-9 robot dog together on the field. You can see Barq hover around and throw his own straight punches to mix up your opponent's timing.
Regardless of who you choose, you’ll quickly learn that your punches are precious because they take a few seconds to return. If your plan is to fire off volleys willy-nilly, you’re going to get punished. Period. Even with these hooks, Arms also has some fun and wacky modes that let you have a little fun with its core ideas.
Wacky Mini Games
The standard one-on-one fighting action can be thrilling, but Arms has some zany modes that help give it some fun variety. In Skillshot, you face off against an opponent on the opposite side of a shooting range filled with targets. The goal is to get a higher score and yes, you can take pot shots at your foe during a round in an effort to hit more targets. Hoops is a much zanier idea that’s played on a basketball court. In it, you can execute a throw and dunk your opponent through the hoop for an easy two points. You can even launch a rival from downtown for the sweet three-point shot using a special move from behind the arc. I found the frantic 2v2 match a little too chaotic compared to the other 1v1 modes. It’s difficult to keep up with what’s happening since there’s so much happening at once.
After spending a few hours with Arms, I got a better understanding of why it works, and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. The combination of different gloves and character abilities could add significant layers of depth. Hoops was a lot of fun to play, and I'm eager to put in more time with it. But one question really remains: Can the hardcore crowd and the casual gamers both approach Arms and feel satisfied. It's a difficult trick to pull off, but Arms might just have a shot at bridging the gap.